Setting a Simple Thanksgiving Table

Setting a simple Thanksgiving table means making a beautiful space for your family to gather, enjoy time together and eat delicious food.

Growing up Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. I loved hanging out with my family while eating all of the delicious food. It was a more “chill” version of Christmas. But my family’s Thanksgivings were nothing like the formal dinner feasts that you see on TV. Our family Thanksgivings were more like every person for themselves. There were usually at least 25 – 30 people lined up buffet-style in the kitchen to get their food. Then, you found a spot somewhere to eat. On the couch, on the floor, wherever. The dining room table held all of the food that wasn’t hot and the desserts, There wasn’t really a spot to sit at a table. And there was never china, glasses or real silverware, it was all about the big Chinet paper plates, red Solo cups and plastic forks.

As a creative person, I love admiring other peoples’ gorgeous tables and place settings. They are so beautiful and elaborate. I love to style my own dining table for our dinner parties as well, but I always stick to the simpler side. While I love a beautiful table, they aren’t usually very practical. If the centerpieces are too tall, then you can’t see the person across from you. If you set out too many dishes, then there isn’t enough room for everything on the table. So I tone it down. What’s on the table isn’t important it’s the people around it. 

Simple Thanksgiving Tablescape

My simple Thanksgiving table also means that I don’t spend a lot of money on making a pretty tablescape. I don’t want to invest in decor that I will never use again. This year’s simple Thanksgiving tablescape was inspired by a Dollar Tree find. I stumbled across some gorgeous vintage-inspired bottles when I was searching for faux pumpkins.. There were several different shapes and colors, but I stuck with green and red. I will get more use out of those colors because they work year round. Both colors for Christmas, green for spring and red for summer/ July 4th.

To keep the table from looking too holly and jolly, I worked in some orange faux foliage and a few pumpkins. I’ve had the orange garland for years, and I layered it with a faux greenery garland from Michael’s. I purposefully didn’t want the garland to extend all the way to the ends of the table so that I could have 8 place settings. But I broke a plate while setting this up so mine only has 6. I do like that it gives the table plenty of breathing room. There could be bread or other elements of the meal easily placed there.

To keep the table from being too plain I added red Gala apples to each place setting for a little bit of color. I usually keep a bowl or basket on hand for guests to place these “pops of color” into when the meal actually begins. After 7 years of hosting people for Passover I’ve learned that guests can sometimes feel awkward about what to do with the decorative elements of a table. They don’t want to mess anything up or seem unappreciative of your hard work. I head this off by just having a place for all those pieces to go and collecting them as everyone sits down. Then your guests don’t feel awkward about moving your gilded pine cones to the side and accidentally spilling gravy on them. 

I, obviously, love decorating my house for each season. It makes me more excited to celebrate and I enjoy the creative energy. But, I honestly don’t remember the decorations after all is said and done. I remember the people, the laughter, the good food and the joy. Those are the things that really matter. So while I’d encourage anyone to do what makes them happy, remember to keep your eyes on the bigger picture. Don’t stress, just enjoy. 

5 Tips for Setting a Simple Thanksgiving Table

  1. Make sure everyone at the table can see each other. Conversation is more important than a giant centerpiece.
  2. Don’t spend a lot of money decorating. Try repurposing decorations you already have or shopping clearance racks, thrift stores or Dollar Tree.
  3. Give the place settings room to breath. Not every surface needs to be covered, blank space for extra dishes or food is useful and creates a more relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Have a place to put all of the decorations that need to be moved for eating and collect them before the meal begins.
  5. Remember what’s important and don’t stress about the things that don’t matter.

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